62.) John Vanderslice - Cellar Door (2004)

From one of the catchiest and easy-to-like pop gems of the decade to one of the strangest.

Cellar Door was my first John Vanderslice record and since then he's become one of my favorite artists - but there's a special place in my heart for Cellar Door. I cannot tell you why I bought this record. I'm sure there was press and I had read it and it probably sounded like something I'd like, so I bought it. But previously John Vanderslice was not on my radar even though he was associated with bands that I already grown to love.

Listening to this record was something of a revelation. It was pop music, but it wasn't any kind of pop music I had been previously associated with. It's weird...and dark and meticulously crafted which at times makes it feel sort of cold, but not in a bad way if that makes sense. It's highly produced, but not over produced. There's a lot going on but it feels spare. It's a record full of wonderfully strange contradictions.

What was most appealing to me about Vanderslice at the time was what a great storyteller he was. He paints vivid pictures of characters, most notably the unhappy man held in check by his powerful family in "They Won't Let Me Run" as well as a group of men sadly fighting their own demons while also fighting in various wars in "Heated Pool and Bar." These songs are so effective in putting the listener somewhere and as a lyric guy myself, I was so intrigued by them.

I have very vivid memories of falling in love with Cellar Door. I was a Page at NBC when the record came out and still lived at home. I had about a three hour round trip commute and this was the beginning of 2004 and believe it or not, I didn't yet have an ipod. I would lug a discman on the train and literally listen to Cellar Door over and over and over again - something people tend to not do very much anymore. It was also the dead of winter (the record was released in January). Cellar Door immediately drops me back in those moments and there are only a few records that still do that for me. These are the records that are so of a place and time for you personally that they always have some emotional effect on you. Cellar Door is a record that while I don't necessarily relate to many of the characters is still an incredibly personal one for me.

I was 23.


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